After about three weeks of relative calm, the Israeli Air Force allegedly conducted a big airstrike on two reported Iranian weapons warehouses located just outside the Syrian capital of Damascus, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a U.K.-based organization that monitors the ongoing Syrian civil war.
The official Syrian news service SANA, reported, quoting an unnamed military official, that “Our air defenses intercepted the attack and shot down most of [the missiles.]” Such claims are frequently made but are discounted by most analysts.
According to the Syrian Capital Voice, the Israeli airstrikes targeted an Iranian weapons shipment that had arrived at the Damascus International Airport earlier on Tuesday. Secondary explosions were reported after the airstrikes; these were likely caused by ammunition hit when the incoming missiles exploded.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) did not comment on the most recent airstrikes, in accordance with its policy to neither confirm nor deny its operations in Syria.
Nevertheless, IDF has admitted on occasion to have conducted numerous airstrikes against Iranian troop concentrations, weapons shipments, and warehouses. Israel’s stated policy is that it will never allow an Iranian presence on its borders. The IDF has launched hundreds of strikes in Syria since the start of the civil war in 2011.
These latest airstrikes were the eighth since the beginning of January as regional tensions are rising between Israel, Iran, and the United States. Iran is ramping up the pressure on the Biden administration, which has made it clear that it is seeking a return to negotiations on the 2015 nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The Israelis feel this is a mistake and worry that it would put nuclear weapons in the hands of its archenemy who is bent on its destruction. Israeli Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi recently stated that he had ordered operational plans to strike Iran’s nuclear program to be ready if necessary.
Just last month, alleged Israeli airstrikes targeted once again the area of Damascus International Airport, through which Iran had reportedly been flying advanced munitions, as well as the long-time Iranian military bases around the Damascus suburb of el-Kisweh. These airstrikes came days after drones reportedly bombed a shipment of advanced weapons being transported through Iraq into eastern Syria by Iranian proxy militias.
According to an independent flight tracking site, a number of Iranian and Syrian flights from Qeshm Air, Mahan Air, and the Syrian Air Force, which have all reportedly been used to smuggle Iranian weapons to Syria and Lebanon, have been traveling between Damascus and Tehran.
The relationship between the U.S. and Iran, which has never been good since the 1979 hostage crisis, has taken an even worse turn since the war in Iraq. With the Iranian Quds Force having been behind the deaths of hundreds of American troops, the threat of war is real.
Israel and Iran have been bitter enemies since the creation of the Islamic Republic in 1980.
After the U.S. largely withdrew from Iraq in 2011, the resultant power vacuum created an opportunity for the Islamic State to carve out a “caliphate” in Iraq and Syria and also allowed Iran to increase its presence and influence throughout the region.
Iran has sponsored militias in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and has been supporting terrorism against American and Western interests.
With an aging, outdated air force, Iran can’t afford a conventional war against the U.S., Israel, or even Saudi Arabia. Therefore, it has invested heavily in ballistic missiles and rockets and is flooding its proxies, especially Hezbollah in Lebanon, with as many as it can.
Through its Houthi proxies in Yemen, Iran has attacked Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities with “drone swarms” and cruise missiles. While the Houthis acknowledged the attack, Iran ridiculously denied having anything to do it.
Israel is worried about similar attacks against it coming from Lebanon, Syria, or Iraq. Thus the Israelis aren’t going to wait for Iranian proxies to acquire an array of missiles, drones, or cruise missiles.
This is why Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced publicly that Iran and Syria will be responsible for any proxy militia that acts within their territory or answers to their orders.
With the Iranians increasingly violating the already lax terms of the JCPOA and the Biden administration clearly wanting to negotiate a return to the pact, Israel is in a quandary.
Israel has made it clear that the 20 percent threshold of Iranian uranium enrichment is its red-line. If Tehran, which has already reached that level in spite of the JCPOA forbidding that, surpasses the 20 percent enrichment, then Israel will act and the threat of open warfare, which no one wants, will grow exponentially.